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Erick Barroso — May 27, 2015 08:07AM HST

What about Acacia wood? I've read it's a lot like Koa but differs a bit. What can you guys tell me about it?

1 Community Answers

Joel - May 28, 2015 at 04:48PM HST

The Ukulele Site Agent

The two are fairly similar and in the same family, most of the differences you will find between Hawaiian Koa and different Acacia instruments depend on the manufacturing and build of each instrument. Given the same exact build and design for an instrument, the tone differences between the two can be debatable although most players will side with Hawaiian Koa for its value. Acacia is slightly denser than Koa but just barely.

Some technical information and detailed descriptions for each wood are listed below and taken from the Koolau Guitar and Ukulele website. A link to the page with additional descriptions for other popular woods used for instrument building is also located below:

Koa – Acacia Koa. The most prized, revered woods of Hawaii, and now throughout the world. In Honolulu, beautiful architecture, carvings, and furniture made of Koa can be found as a legacy of Hawaii’s mass deforestation of the 1800′s. Even today, Koa is still the preferred wood, and in this case, for musical instruments. It should be noted that many other species of woods throughout the world closely resemble Koa, and now are being marketed and sold as Koa.

Most trees have a characteristic, predictable pattern, hardness, density, and flexibility. Not so with Koa. Almost every tree, and planks from each tree look different, being yellow, red, black, purple, green, and grain is either straight, curly, mottled, spalted, or quilted.
Koa has similar properties to that of Mahogany, though slightly heavier in weight and greater in density, but like Mahogany it produces warm and sweet bass and treble tones, and adequate volume. Weight of Koa wood is approximately 41lb/ft and the specific gravity is .55.

Acacia – (Acacia Preta, Acacia Melanoxylon) – a beautiful wood growing throughout Polynesia and Southeast Asia, but originally from South America. Sometimes called the “Rain Tree” or “Golden Rain Tree.” The term Rain Tree is derived from the fact that the leaves close or fold during rain or limited light, thus allowing moisture to reach the ground under its beautiful, umbrella like canopy.

Various Acacia species grow throughout the Hawaiian islands, the most notable being Acacia Koa. All have beautiful color and grain patterns. Acacia woods are now becoming popular in guitarmaking. Being in the same family as Hawaiian Acacia Koa, Acacia Preta is sometimes mistaken for Hawaiian Koa (and in fact, sometimes unscrupulously sold as Koa). The color and grain patterns of Acacia Preta, along with a similar density and weight has made it a popular alternative to the limited and endangered supply of Koa.

But what is important is that Acacia Preta is in abundant supply and not endangered with exploitation or deforestation. May be used for tops, back, and sides, or combined with Spruce, Cedar, or Redwood. Weight is 42 lb/ft and .56 specific gravity.

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